I don’t know about you, but I’ve made more than my fair share of hurtful comments that damaged my relationships and left me with a pile of regrets. It is painful to admit that. It’s even more painful to recall the look in the eyes of those I harmed.
The good news is that I lived long enough to realize what I was doing, stop it, and make amends for those wounds. Someone else whom you may know apparently has had similar good fortune.
According to a recent inc.com article by Justin Bariso, the Craig Ferguson, comedian and television host, also learned how to prevent making messes with his mouth. Mr. Ferguson claims that he earned his wisdom over the course of three marriages. (Ouch!) We can be glad that he hung in there long enough to gain the wisdom and share it with us. It came in the form of three questions.
Question #1: Does this need to be said?
I think that most of us could answer this in less time than it took me to type it. That is, if we are willing to take a beat, slow down, and picture in our minds the look on the other person’s face after the words have left our mouths.
If we really are not sure about our answer, we can supplement that question with another. “What need of mine will I satisfy by saying this thing?” We could also ask, “What need of theirs will I satisfy by saying this?”
An addendum I would add from personal experience is, “I really don’t have to say everything that I think.”
Question #2: Does this need to be said by me?
I like that this question gives me the opportunity to step out of the picture. That is, I can separate myself from the situation and consider the question based solely on the benefit (or detriment) of the other person.
It is easy to assume that somehow I am the only one to bear this message. Asking myself if I truly am the best person to deliver this offers me the possibility that someone else might be better suited to bring up the subject. Perhaps I do not yet have sufficient rapport with them. Or, I might not have earned their trust so that they could hear this from me, no matter how well I crafted it or how pure my intentions were.
Question #3: Does this need to be said by me, now?
You’ve heard the saying, “Timing is everything?” Yeah.
Talking to your teenager about cleaning their room right after they were ghosted by their “best” friend at a big party is generally not going to work out well for anybody in your household.
You may have plenty of your own examples.
Making the effort to memorize and use these emotionally intelligent questions will serve you well. They are great aids to being mindful and skillful as you navigate all your relationships.
May we all apply this bit of wisdom and avoid doing harm with our words.